Many people have a mini-meltdown the moment they realize their website has been penalized by Google. After putting so much of your time, effort and money into something, it's very easy to feel as though the world is shattering beneath your feet. Penalties happen to the most careful, successful webmasters so try not to beat yourself up too much. This experience is one of many that is going to help your site reach even greater heights, although that fact may be difficult to see in this confusing time.
Everyone Makes Mistakes
As much as we hate admitting we were wrong, mistakes happen to the best of us. Maybe you didn't realize you were trading links with websites that had a low PR or who took part in black hat techniques. You know the saying 'You are who you hang out with?' Search engines live by this motto. If a high percentage of the people promoting your site aren't exactly good references, it can bring down the quality of your website. The same can be said when you choose to guest post on other company blogs that have negative reputations.
Removing the harmful links and promotion is one way to go about upping your rating once again and so is spending more time on these aspects of your website in the future. Rushing through anything isn't generally going to get you the results you desire. In order to go far, you need to work hard. While it may not feel like it at the time, Google is a forgiving engine. They don't expect perfection 100% of the time but they would like to see you working on fixing the mistakes you've made.
You're Not a Repeat Offender
If you aren't being penalized for the 2nd, 3rd or 5th time for something then you shouldn't worry too much about it. Once you find the errors of your ways, show you care enough to make positive changes and nicely request that your site be reconsidered and you have nothing to worry about. There is a good chance your site won't be reconsidered for a handful of months which will hurt your business but the good news is: this gives you plenty of time to make sure your site is more than just up to par and gives you additional time to read up on Google's latest updates.
Looking on the Bright Side
When you're punished, it's hard to see the good through the dark clouds looming above your head but by being penalized, you will definitely know what to look out for in the future. Did you know what others post on your site can directly affect your reputation and ranking? If you aren't doing so already, make sure to delete duplicate content or posts that appear 'spammy'. This may be the right time to incorporate a guidelines page to your site so your members know what to expect. If moderation isn't enough to keep up with things, then you may want to have everything posted requiring approval, at least until members reach a certain status so they've gained your trust.